Back To College

Column: Finding the Good
by Caitlin Ludwig

Lately, I’ve been wandering down memory lane in my mind.  My sister is just finishing up her senior year in high school and my brother is just finishing his senior year in college.  Both are such important turning points in life – I can’t help think of my own life during those times.

I graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington in December of 2007.  I was in a bit of a hurry to get out and into the real world so I graduated early.  Little did I know that the next three months would pretty much involve a very depressing amount of time indoors due to the weather, a lack of a job and lack of money. I don’t regret leaving early when I log into my Sallie Mae account every month and pay my student loan bill, but at times I wish I would have stayed that extra semester to really soak it all up.

I traveled back to my campus in May of 2008 to walk with my classmates.  It was a really joyful time for me – a chance to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a few months and visit a place that would remain very near and dear to my heart.  With the trees in full bloom and the campus buzzing, it was the very perfect way to leave my beloved IWU.

As I sit here now, all “grown up”, and watch my sister fall in love with her very own university, I can’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy.  College, like my things in life, isn’t something you really appreciate until it’s over.  I remember being a senior in high school and everyone passing along their words of wisdom – most of which included really taking it all in because the years really do fly by. Of course, I didn’t believe them.  Boy, were they right…

I remember how scared I was the day before I left but how at home I immediately felt on campus.  A room the size of my current office (or smaller…) was home.  My meals were eaten on a tray and were always ready and waiting for me – no prep work and better yet, no dishes! My friends were no more than two doors down or a block across campus and had a similar schedule to mine, were dealing with similar problems and understood my stresses.  Now don’t get me wrong, there were crappy parts too – one ply toilet paper, the constant need for shoes in the shower, the very idea of accounting and the sheer amount of homework showered upon me every day.  But somehow, like most memories, the good far outweighs the bad.

I’m traveling back to good ole IWU at the end of April to sing in a wedding in Bloomington for the first time since I was handed a diploma and wished farewell.  I plan on taking time to wander the campus and perhaps lay on the quad and just breathe it all in.  Honestly, I have a feeling the visit back will be a bit emotional.  College is a time when you start to realize who you are – start to realize what matters and what doesn’t and life changes so very quickly.  I entered college with a steady boyfriend who I was 99% sure I was going to marry and left single – not by my choice.  I stepped onto campus as one of the best singers from my small town and was surrounded by the best singers from all sorts of other towns.  The next 3.5 years were spent working my singing butt off and realizing this wasn’t something I wanted to do as a profession.  I showed up to college confident I would walk out after graduation with my dream job in a big city making $50k+ (at least) and graduated jobless headed back home as I felt the very first twinges of The Great Recession.

I also walked away from campus confident I wouldn’t settle in life or love.  I left knowing that I could handle crazy amounts of stress and challenges and come out on top.  I realized that sometimes it’s not what you actually do, but the hurdles you jump through and the ethics you hold on to that matter the most.  I came to know that life isn’t always fair and not every one always cares or always has your best interests in mind.  I flirted with love and friendship and the blurry line between the two.  I was told I was part of something greater, and I began to believe it.  I graduated a stronger, more confident young woman ready to tackle the world (and starting making some money!!)

Every time I think back to Wesleyan, I can’t help but think of “I Wish I Could Go Back To College” from Avenue Q.  Not only is it hilarious, but it sums up exactly my thoughts and longings to head back to the quad.  But, as the song says, if I go back now, I know I’ll feel so old… My time at IWU has passed.  My memories will never fade and my love for the school will never be shaken but, it’s time for another generation of Titans to wander the quad and shower with shoes on.  IWU prepared me for my path today and so, I say thank you.  I wish all future Titans the best of luck and I hope the share in the warm memories that I have.

So, here’s to growing up.  Sometimes it sucks – I never am greeted at my door with a dry-erase message nor do I have an academic adviser to point the way, but hey… my toilet paper is soft, I don’t wear shoes in the shower and I have more than $10 in my bank account… usually… 🙂  Wesleyan will always have a feeling of home to it but I find my Wesleyan is still very much alive and well.  My Wesleyan is tucked away in phone calls with college friends, the comfort of a very well loved IWU sweatshirt and the token reminder mug and pompom that sits on my office desk.  And that means, I’ll always be able to go back to college.


For your listening and viewing pleasure!!  Note* This version is sensored – the original version drops and f-bomb.  The first line is also a bit messed up because the actress actually missed her cue because of audience applause.  The full line is “I wish I could go back to college, life was so simple back then.”  Enjoy!!!


~ by caitlinludwig on April 12, 2011.

One Response to “Back To College”

  1. Fun read, Caitlin. As much as you miss being on your college campus, I’m completely envious of your degree. Try being a 31-year old starting your senior year at college. Instead of finishing school when I was younger, I decided to start working. After 2008 hit, the office where I was working closed down and I was unemployed for two months. I then realized that it was time to finish my degree, since an Associate’s Degree just wasn’t going to cut it.

    Now I’m trying to juggle a full-time job, a marriage, training for a half marathon, a writing gig for the paper, a young professional organization, AND seven credits of classes. Sadly, I don’t enjoy the fun of living on campus like I would have in my younger years. I would encourage anyone to finish school straight out of high school, as I’ve regretted it ever since.

    I hope your visit back to your school is a good one.

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